Oh the places we went…. and are going

Finger knitted thneed bookmarks

“It’s not about what it is, it is about what it will become.” Dr. Seuss, the Lorax.

A few weeks ago a teacher asked me if I would approve the students seeing the new Lorax movie. She made a compelling presentation. She said, “It is Dr. Seuss’s birthday, Read Across America, and the new Lorax movie all in one day. It will be epic! We will tie in activities, themes, and even a Seussville themed hallway decoration. Also, I contacted the Movie theater and we will be the first ones to see it!” I replied, “I will see what I can do, there is not much time. I doubt it will get approved, but I will try. Make sure to collect resources.”
From that point on, just as the seed in The Lorax, it grew and

3rd grade math and Seuss

spread. I found out we could get buses and afford them. I talked to the PTA who graciously approved donating $4.00 per ticket to reduce the parent/student responsibility in half. I talked with my Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum and she supported the curricular connection. I talked with our amazing educational technician, Alicia Discepola, and she agreed to pool all things Seuss into one site for kids, parents, and teachers. We were, to a certain extent, on a roll. We had to wait a day for the final approval, and then we got the call around 10:00 AM “You are approved!”It was Thursday, and I was going to be out on Friday.
We contacted the movie theater and began the process of making final arrangements. They wanted the money by Tuesday. Time was of the essence. We decided to have an “emergency” assembly at the end of the day to tell the kids about this epic Read Across America event. We showed the original Lorax movie and then stopped it with a few minutes remaining. I asked the students if they would like to see the end and they all yelled, “YES!” I then replied, “Well, how about you see the new Lorax, which is the “ending” to the Lorax?” The kids went nuts.


Oh the places we will go someday

Throughout last week the entire school turned into Seussville. Each classroom decorated their door with a different theme. Teachers took pictures of students with the Cat in the Hat, Lorax mustaches, 1st grade did Thing 1,2,3 until they did the whole grade.

Seuss + Math = Learning

Teachers integrated the themes of Seuss into math, reading, writing, science, social studies as well as art, Spanish, physical education, and music. I watched 5th graders construct their own math problems for others to solve on Truffula trees, while 3rd graders compared and contrasted themes from the Lorax. I received, via twitter, excellent trivia questions along with facts about Dr. Seuss from @PrincipalJ in Wisconsin. We took time throughout each of the days to make sure the whole school stopped and listened. Sometimes the winner had to run to the front office, other times we would take the 9th caller. Each winner received a prize for their hard work. It was a truly amazing week to be an educator.


4th grade used the book Wocket in My Pocket and had the students each pick an object in their classroom to write their own page for a rewrite of the story.  They illustrated their pages and we made a poster book which is in the hallway.  They used Kerpoof.com to make a “tech” version as well. They highlighted the difference between computer illustrations and personal illustration and they did a Venn diagram to compare.

 4th graders also watched the original Lorax to decide focal points to be debated between the Lorax and the Onceler.  This turned into more of a summarizing and exploratory lesson for the kids to gain insight into what could be expected from the new Movie we saw on Friday.  They will follow up with a comparison essay between the two letting the kids pick their own way to organize the details from the movie.

Dr. Moore at Read Across America Assembly

On Read Across America Day students and teachers dressed as their favorite characters from the Seuss books. Our Kindergarten through 2nd grade had a wonderful assembly with guest readers. After the assembly they watched Green Eggs and Ham while eating green eggs prepared by our teachers. Grades 3-5 watched the new Lorax movie and were the first kids to see it on the east coast. Which ended up being the number 1 movie over the weekend. During the movie, the students were so well behaved I had to keep reminding myself that we actually pulled it off. On the way out of the movie theater, as students walked by me they said, “Thank you”, and others hugged me. One girl told me that she cried because it was such a good movie. One 3rd grade teacher told me that we should plant a tree during the Earth Day activities and have the students put stones around it like they did in the Lorax.
At dismissal, students asked when we were going to “clean up the outside of the school” because they do not want any litter, leaves or branches on the property.

Truffula trees growing


Truffula seed from new Lorax movie. Source: truffula-seed-from-movie-rxzo3v.jpg

I still can’t believe we pulled it off. But luckily we are not finished. K-2 will be going to see the movie in a few weeks. Teachers and students are already (as you can see from above) looking for that next thing. Believe me, there are many things I did not include in this post about just how busy I was during this week (discipline issues, parent conferences, Professional Development plan due, redesigning our upcoming basic skill interventions, observations and APRs due, not to mention the walkthroughs, faculty meeting, and bullying paperwork just to name a few). But as I sit here and type this out that stuff seems so insignificant when I reflect on the impact this week had on our students, teachers, and me.

3rd graders answer higher level questions

I watched the video by @Mrs. _Devita and I told her I was going to cry. After the 5th grade students did their announcements for the upcoming week, she went around and filmed each door, hallway, and classroom that had a connection to Dr. Seuss. As the images passed by on the screen I could hear the recording of a 3rd grade class and the music teacher singing, “I will not eat green eggs and ham.”

Here is a list of the places we went, and will continue to go:

One teachers slide share on Lessons from the Lorax:

Lessons from Dr. Seuss by Mr. Selfdevelopment:


@aliciadiscepola’s most excellent Read Across America website:


30 Dr. Seuss quotes that can change your life:




Getting “into” double dutch

This is the approach

How many people out there can say they have been able to Double Dutch jump rope? I have tried on and off for about 12 years. It all started when I worked in Camden. The girls would be swinging the ropes during recess, and I would try to get in. I couldn’t do it. I asked for help. I still couldn’t do it. Nothing seemed to work.


So when I started here in Millville, as an Elementary Principal, I knew I would have another chance to redeem myself. This year, I have made it my mission to get into the Double Dutch world. I also extended the challenge to a 5th grade teacher who has had similar frustrations with the Double Dutch world. Not soon after the challenge, she came in (with her colleagues of course) to show me a Flip video she took at recess. I figured it was going to be something bad or an incident that would prompt some investigating. On the contrary, it was a video of her DOING Double Dutch. To add insult to injury, she was waving at the camera, laughing, and jumping all at the same time!

This is the Jump


Recently, we had our annual Jump Rope for Heart fundraising event. I tried again and again for about 10 minutes.  A small audience gathered to see the principal trying to get in. Each time, nothing, just ropes hitting my face and shoulders. Kids tried to explain it to me. “When this one gets to the top, jump in with your right foot then immediately switch to jump with your left foot.” Guess what? It still didn’t work.


I figured I would do some research on this topic. I found that there are numerous “how to” web videos, web sites, etc. The first lady is actually able to Double Dutch!  I asked a former teacher to talk to me about her Double Dutch experiences.  I showed her my post. She said, “Your post brings back so many memories. I used to double Dutch…well, try to Double Dutch with my 5th graders.” She then asked me, “Did they advise you to “feel” the rhythm of the ropes?” “Well, of course they did,” I replied. She went on to say, “My kids (patiently) instructed me to watch, feel, listen, and move to the rhythm of the ropes…like music. After NUMEROUS attempts, their advice worked for me, and I finally got in. Learning how to Double Dutch taught me a lot about teaching them. Taking opportunities to learn from my students was some of the best Professional Development I ever had. If you want to find out how students learn best, give them the opportunity to teach you something you can’t do naturally…ENLIGHTENING!  Thank you for bringing back something I have forgotten.”

This is ... Not good



I figured I would put this out to the blog as an attempt get more HELP and eventually get into the Double Dutch world.


How many people can say they can Double Dutch?


Want more information?

Michelle Obama and Basics:







The Peppersteppers:


Coming Back From Maternity Leave

@mrsbensonsbunch Tweet This!

Any mom’s out there? Remember coming back from maternity leave? Each time it gets harder, right? Anyone have 3 and then come back to a completely different type of environment? @mrsbensonsbunch did!


She was on maternity leave since September and just returned on January 30th. When she returned, she found a SMART board in her room, and a principal who talked about blogging and tweeting. So what did she do?


After working with her very helpful (and thankfully still employed at our school) maternity leave replacement @Mrs_DeVita she learned how the SMART board worked, signed up for twitter and is developing a class blog. She hasn’t missed a beat.


One of the cool things that I noticed in her room was her Tweet Wall (above). When students want to share something, they get up, get a post-it and write their tweet. In fact, I tweeted the class after my recent observation.

Listening Center

I really enjoyed watching the students work with the listening center. Look at the rubric! They have to grade themselves on whether they are reading like a robot, like a news caster or a rock star. I asked one student and he knew that being a rock star was the best. 3rd grade!


So, to all of the moms who are coming back, going out, or simply “remember those days” here is to one who did it with panache!

Reflective Practice: Looking into the mirror

Every Principal needs to look into the Reflective Mirror

The concept of Reflective Practice (Osterman & Kottkamp, 2004) has helped me balance my leadership as a new principal. The use of reflective practice provides me with the basis of how to become an effective principal by constantly asking questions and spending time reflecting. My natural tendency is to jump from one project to another without much thought. I used to ask myself, “What is the next thing for me to get involved with?” Now I ask myself, “What am I doing now?” and more importantly, “Why?”

One aspect of the reflective practice process has been the ability to value the input of others in decision making. I used to ask myself why I always need to seek input from others. Perhaps there have been decisions that could have been made on my own, but if I truly wanted to create a reflective environment for my school, I must have the trust that, even if I reveal myself as vulnerable, my staff would provide feedback. If someone betrays my trust, I have to believe it reflects more about them, not me.

One of the most influential books in my library

As a principal I have a vision of what my school should be. Whether I am at PTA function, Back to School Night, Faculty Meeting, or just casual conversation I see the school as the top performing elementary school in the county within five years. As a new principal, I have been forced to remain steadfast in this vision. Every day I am faced with a thousand reasons why we will not be the top performing school. Along the way, however, I have had to ask myself tough, reflective questions such as how does this problem reveal an opportunity? Knowing I cannot do this myself, who can I enlist to help? It is through these questions that I reflect and gain perspective.

I take a reflective approach when analyzing my leadership practices and it has made such a difference in my work products. In fact this blog serves as my reflective diary about my insights into learning. By taking the time to write about my experiences, I am implementing the reflective process technique. I know how I want to be viewed as a principal, but I also need to be able to articulate this to students, teachers, parents and other key stakeholders. Using reflective practice and asking myself tough questions forces me to confront my leadership as a mirror that reflects who I am and who I want to be. That is why the theme “Your Image is Our Image” is so fitting.

Want more information on Reflective Practice? Check out these links:




Osterman, K., & Kottkamp, R. (2004). Reflective practice for educators: Professional development to improve student learning (2nd ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press.

What is it like being a principal? Are you in meetings all day?

RM Bacon a long, long time ago

One of my best friends, Dan, recently asked me those questions via text. I have known Dan since high school. I have always admired him because he is a risk taker. When most of our friends went off to colleges and universities, Dan went to Africa to plant trees. Then he moved to Montana and got into a bagel business which required him to go to work very, very early. After his stint in Montana, he moved to Lake Charles, Louisiana to work on a boat in the gambling world which required him to work nights. When he was finished with that, he and I went on a cross country camping excursion and were able to see much of this beautiful country.


What do I really do at work?

I think it was on that trip that Dan decided he was going to devote himself to becoming a chef and one day opening his own business. He moved back to Philly and enrolled in restaurant school and started his journey into the business. About 12 or 13 years ago he moved up to NYC. He has remained there working in all different capacities, and types of places. He often tells me how tough the business is, and he works when everyone else is off and vice versa.

So when I texted him back this is what I wrote: “It depends on the day. My main goal is to be out in the classrooms with the teachers and students. There is also a lot of management stuff I have to take care of. I do have a lot of meetings, and I try to have fun.” I let him know I had this blog, and he checked it out and said he was going to follow it.

I thought more about his questions and reflected on my position as a 21st century elementary principal. Well, if he is reading this, I would like to add a few things to my text.

Dear Dan, here is what I do:

Meetings help us solve problems


  • Meet with other administrators
  • My mentor
  • Literacy coach (who is my new life coach)
  • Consultants
  • Parents
  • Guidance counselors
  • Teachers
  • Custodians
  • Cafeteria workers
  • Bus drivers
  • Secretaries
  • Security guards
  • Students
  • Parent Teacher Association
  • DYFS workers
  • Community organizations
  • New initiatives

Management stuff:

  • Monitor hallways
  • Manage budget
  • Make sure lunches are running smooth
  • Supervise Arrival
  • Read, write and respond to about 50 emails a day
  • Supervise dismissal
  • Complete cleanliness evaluations on rooms, offices, etc.
  • Ride school buses
  • Drive the streets after dismissal making sure kids are behaving
  • Visit houses
  • Visit other schools
  • Phone calls/conferences
  • Write

    Always watching Classroom Instruction at Work!

  • Read articles
  • Collect data
  • Analyze data
  • Organize paper work
  • Sign for various trips, professional development days, approvals, etc.

Leadership stuff:

  • Present information at faculty meetings
  • Train staff on best practices
  • Make suggestions on improving classroom instruction
  • Listen to suggestions on improving the school
  • Follow through on requests
  • Analyze problems, seek solutions, implement programs
  • Hopefully inspire staff
  • Speak at events, assemblies

There are other things as well that I will call “Other category”:

  • Announcements, ‘Goooooood Morning Bacon Elementary School”
  • Play kickball
  • Get lots of cupcakes for birthdays
  • Play floor hockey
  • Clean up syrup at breakfast
  • Play basketball
  • Run
  • Jump rope

    Lots of cupcakes

  • Attempt to get in on Double Dutch
  • Read with kids
  • Solve math problems that kids give me
  • Mentor
  • Counsel
  • Mediate
  • Make my secretaries laugh (that is starting to wear off, just like it has with everyone who knows me long enough)
  • Dance with the most awesome Postal Worker, Jenna
  • Rap with Jenna, the most awesome Postal Worker
  • Show people Karate moves
  • Sit down at breakfast/lunch with kids
  • Ask teachers for help
  • Eat at Moe’s (Please don’t share that with my wife)
  • Get tons of hugs from great kids
  • Give out lots of high fives
  • Listen to kids who cry or are upset
  • Make kids cry and be upset (well, usually that is because of their behavior)
  • Call the superintendent, assistant superintendent, other principals,supervisors, and friends in other districts and ask “How do I…”
  • Philosophize over educational problems, solutions
  • Listen to music
  • Check twitter
  • Jam a minute everyday at 2:30 PM
  • Blog
  • Take pictures
  • Capture cool things on video
  • Entertain visitors
  • Read the local newspaper
  • Cut out articles from the paper and post

OK, Dan, I think I got it all. As you can see, a lot has changed since the last time you were in school.  I encourage you to check back on the comments. Some people may either make additions, or tell you I flat out don’t do what was listed above. I think you know me well enough.

My first grade teachers dressed up as Dr. + Spike + Cook

Here are some posts from my previous blog (Jan 2012)

Following that twitter bird

January 17 – 20

We had a four day week because of the Martin Luther King Jr. Holiday on Monday. I love MLK day because this holiday always requires me to reflect on the type of human being I am. My son had his buddy over that day, and I feel that MLK would have been proud of both of them because they are from different cultures and have different tones of skin color, but ultimately they are just 7 year old boys.

 The highlight for me this week was joining Mrs. Sutton’s class on Thursday afternoon. I was called to the class because of typical 5th grade drama, but we all walked away ready for a change. The students took time to deeply reflect on how they treated each other, their teacher, and their families. On Friday, they all said that for the first time, they really understood the no bullying pledge. I rewarded them with a friendly floor hockey game on Friday afternoon. We may have lost that game, but we won in so many other ways. Then, Now, Always Family!

January 9 -13

Twitter has opened up my professional world! I am hoping to get teachers, other administrators and parents involved in this vital piece of social media. Get started at twitter.com – its free!

I spent almost 2 full days away from the school this week (and another pretty much in my office with meetings) so today was my day for walkthroughs and reconnecting with everybody. I saw some awesome things today, but I have to say I got “stuck” in 3rd grade. Mrs. Woodman had a legendary lesson for martin Luther King Jr. Day. She taught the students sign language (she herself learned it the day before on her ipad) and they read the book One Love by Cedella Marley (Bob’s daughter). As they read the story they learned sign language. At the conclusion of the lesson, she played Bob’s One Love and they danced and signed to the song. Then I went next door and Mrs. DiGiogio’s class organized and performed an anti-bullying play. I was so impressed with the team effort (not to mention acting abilities of these 3rd graders). Mrs. DiGiorgio plans to help them expand the play and maybe share with a larger audience. Way to go 3rd grade! We ARE World Class!

January 3 – 6

The students seemed very relaxed this week. Not sure if it was because they had so many days off from us or they are just ready to start the New Year! We had our first snow of the year. As I was talking to someone in the office, a safety came in to tell me that there were kids throwing snowballs at each other on the playground. I knew we only got a dusting, so I doubted that actual snowballs. I went out and yelled for them to line up. Within 20 seconds I had a straight line with kids waiting for me to speak. I told them that I was young once and I also loved to play in the snow, but we do not throw snow or run around on the playground because someone could get hurt. The snow melted by the end of the day.

 I had the opportunity to work with Mrs. Gandy’s class on multiplication. As they were working on the slate boards, I asked them what they were learning. Working in pairs, the students were giving each other two and three digit problems to solve. Eventually, I sat down and the students were giving me problems to solve. My hardest was when one student wrote 5555 X 5. I showed them a trick to solving the problem. They got the calculator out and sure enough I was correct: 27, 775!

Your Image is Our Image

A few years ago there was an advertisement campaign that placed a great deal of emphasis on image. Statements such as “Image is everything” or “This will improve my image” impacted thousands of people. Yet, my exposure to the “image” concept goes back to 1996 when I first worked the Educational Opportunity Fund (EOF) summer program at Rowan University. The EOF program is designed to help at-risk college students succeed through a summer program and intensive support. I had gone through the program myself in 1992.

The Residential Supervisor I worked for was known for his ideas. One day I helped him place a 6 by 4 foot mirror in the front of the residential hall for all EOF students to see as they came and left each day. I asked him what would be the purpose of this big mirror? He told me that he was going to put a quote on the mirror to have the students recognize the importance of their appearance, and also and more importantly, that they represented the EOF program by what they did, said, dressed, etc. This concept stuck with me.

Fast forward to 2011. When I arrived at RM Bacon I was impressed by the appearance of the historic building.  I loved the marble entrance and wanted to make sure visitors could see and appreciate it as well. During the summer we moved some things around and I pondered what to do with the big open space where Mrs. Bacon’s picture used to hang. It was then that I thought of the Residential Supervisor from the EOF program, and since we are located in Millville, home of the glass industry, I ordered the mirror.

And just like my former supervisor, when someone asks why we needed a big mirror at our entrance and exit I say, “Because your image is our image.”

The Polar Express and other holiday goodies

December 23, 2011 – Last post of 2011

Now ya got hot chocolate

Today was one of the busiest days of this year. I was up early getting prepared for the staff meeting (holiday celebration). My gift to the staff was a relaxed meeting with a hearty breakfast. We also exchanged gifts and had a lot of laughs!

 The school day began with a definite buzz. The kids and teachers had their pajamas on ready for the Polar Express Themed Day. After morning announcements, we began to call each grade down to the gym. Every student had their ticket punched by one of the 1st grade teachers. 5th grade student leaders handed out popcorn. Once we were all assembled in the gym, we set our objective of the day and made sure everyone knew our expectations.

 Mrs. Simpson organized the Chorus for an amazing encore performance from the Winter Concert. Then Coach put in a DVD for us to sing along. Somehow I was left with the microphone for the sing along. I made sure that I wasn’t the only one with the microphone. Thankfully, Mrs. Gandy, Mrs. Summers, random kindergarteners and the 8 students selected for all city chorus assisted. After the sing along we started the movie, The Polar Express. Mrs. Sutton, Mrs. Muhlbaier, Mrs. Taylor, Miss Spiels and Mrs. Ayars made hot chocolate and filled 300 cups with lids donated by the WaWa on 49. Our head custodian Mr. Wayne was very happy that WaWa donated the cups with lids. We only had 2 spills and they were caused by teachers. The students were so well behaved during the movie.

 When the movie was over, we had everyone return to their classroom. And to their surprise, each student had a bell and a candy cane on their desk. I announced to the students that the bell was given to them so that they can believe – believe in themselves, their family, and their school! Each classroom had a party and before we all knew it we were dismissing the students. Even though I was so exhausted from the day, I was truly impressed with the students as they left for the winter break. Everyone was smiling and giving well wishes. I even joked with the parents that we sugared them up! I am so thankful to be a Bacon Bear! Happy New Year! Love – Dr. Cook


The Real Bacon Bear is in your heart

The infamous sign at night

December 12 – 16

Our new electronic sign was installed this week. I have had a lot of positive responses from parents, community members and teachers since it went up. One day, as I was standing out near it during dismissal, I had a student comment about the new Bear logo. He said it wasn’t “tough enough” and how could he wear the logo on a shirt and compete at Olympic Day. I thought about it after he left and then later on that evening it hit me. The next day I went back to the student and I told him this, “We have a new bear which was designed for our new image. And as for this bear not being viewed as ‘tough enough’ you have to remember that the real Bacon Bear is in your heart, not on a shirt or a sign.”



Full moons

December 5 – 9

Full moon witching hour? Does a full moon impact kids? Friday was just one of those days. I had issue after issue after issue. Every teacher I talked with said the same thing. I called another principal and asked her how things were going at her school. The first thing she asked me was, “Do you know it is a full moon tomorrow?” So, I googled “kids and the full moon.” There were about 75 million results. I found out that the”Lunar Effect” theory has been around for centuries and continues today.  Most researchers say that there is a correlation, but it is not a causation. All in all we had a very good week at RM Bacon. We have some very entrepreneurial

5th graders who are making paper trees and poinsettias to raise money for their field trip. They told me that they want to “leave their mark” on Bacon before they head off to middle school. We have really great kids!